If you ask any NY Islanders fan, they'll likely tell you the national media typically doesn't show the team much respect in terms of rankings or projections. The tide looked to be changing slightly following two straight Conference Finals - but after a disappointing 2021-22 season and a first-round exit this past season, the talking heads are again discrediting the Isles.
Looking ahead to next season, ESPN has shown some belief in the blue and orange, ranking them in the top 10 of their NHL Power Rankings: Way-Too-Early Edition for 2023-24. Ranked No. 10 on the list, the worldwide leader in sports ranks the Isles third in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.
"The Islanders have 20 players under contract for next season. GM Lou Lamoriello would like to bring back Scott Mayfield, Semyon Varlamov, Pierre Engvall, and Zach Parise if the latter chooses not to retire. The only player that seems like he's on the outs is forward Josh Bailey, who was a playoff scratch. Can this team use its core to create more offense, or will it seek goal-scoring from elsewhere?"- Greg Wyshynski
Ranked ahead of the NY Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Isles are hoping their 2023-24 season will be similar to the second half of last season. After a difficult start to the season, the Isles found their game near the All-Star break, shortly after the acquisition of Bo Horvat.
As Lou Lamoriello is expected to move Josh Bailey to clear up significant cap space, the organization should have more room to fit a goal-scoring winger or a puck-moving defenseman into the rotation via free agency.
With Ilya Sorokin between the pipes, the Islanders believe they can win every game. Finishing the season 22nd in goals-for-per-game at 2.95, the Isles hope to improve on the offensive end of the ice while maintaining their strong defensive presence.
At some point this season, maybe we'll see the Islanders near the top of some power rankings - but it's still enjoyable to beat the odds and prove people wrong.